A number of reports indicate that the Obama administration is close to launching some form of military operation against Syria.
America is going to war.
This would constitute the first broad, offensive military act the U.S. has executed since America and its allies intervened in Libya two years ago. Though it will likely be limited in scope — avoiding "boots on the ground," and a substantial U.S. military presence in Syria itself — Syria will be a critical foreign policy moment for the Obama administration. Experts believe President Obama is likely to order a limited military operation in Syria – a cruise missile strike on military targets – rather than a sustained air campaign to topple President al-Assad. Military action is always the most extreme act of international policy a nation can have, and the ripple effect on regions, other nations, and the global economy (a rise in oil prices is likely) is vast. What happens in Syria may be "limited," yes, but will effect every American in some way, and will have lasting unforseen impacts down the road.
War is imminent. Whether or not military action will actually work is an entirely different question.
As CBS News reports, Obama has ordered a declassified report be prepared for public release before any military strike commences. The report will be due out within the next day or so.
This comes after Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday gave a major speech in which he described chemical attacks in Syria as an "obscenity” that “defy any code of morality."
The Washington Post, reporting this speech, described it as a battle cry: "It’s difficult to find a single sentence in Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful and at points emotional press conference on Syria that did not sound like a direct case for imminent U.S. military action against Syria. It was, from the first paragraph to the 15th, a war speech."
It seems like a verdict on what to do in Syria has already been decided, as CBS News reports: "There was no debate at the Saturday meeting that a military response is necessary. Obama ordered up legal justifications for a military strike, should he order one, outside of the United Nations Security Council. That process is well underway, and particular emphasis is being placed on alleged violations of the Geneva Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention."
Any strike would likely be limited in scope, according to a report in the New York Times: "Administration officials said that although President Obama had not made a final decision on military action, he was likely to order a limited military operation — cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea at military targets in Syria, for example — and not a sustained air campaign intended to topple Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, or to fundamentally alter the nature of the conflict on the ground."
Syria constitutes the latest page in the so-called Obama Doctrine, Obama's special brand of foreign policy. Military action in Syria would constitute the most extreme side of the Obama Doctrine. Generally speaking, his style of foreign policy emphasizes negotiation and collaboration rather than confrontation and unilateralism in international affairs. Clearly negotiation has broken down in this case. Obama won't go it alone in Syria, and we can expect that other countries — notably Britain, France, and Germany — will join any American foray into the country. The biggest international fireworks could come at the UN, where Russia and China — both members of the Security Council — will likely vehemently oppose Western aggression in Syria.
The one ally Obama won't have in this fight is the American majority: About 60% of Americans say the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Only 9% of Americans say the United States should act militarily.
Regardless, Syria will be a major test for the Obama administration.
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